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Hurricane Preparedness Week continues through Saturday. And organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service are using each day of the week to focus on a specific aspect of disaster readiness.

Hurricane Preparedness Week: Storm surge and flooding

courtesy: NOAA

Tropical Depression Beryl makes her way through the Cape Fear Region during Hurricane Preparedness Week -- and on a day of particularly salient focus.

As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, while Wednesday is all about storm surge and flood readiness, emergency officials are asking area residents to heed flood advisories and seek updates on the developing storm conditions.    

It’s a term that’s used frequently before, during, and after major weather events.  But what does “storm surge” actually mean?  New Hanover County’s Emergency Management Director Warren Lee says storm surge is the water that goes above and beyond what we experience in the normal tidal cycle. 

“In the case of hurricanes, storm surge could be anywhere from 2 feet to – in some cases – 18-20 feet or higher.” 

Lee says a mandatory evacuation is often ordered when facing a category 2 or higher hurricane.  But this particular element is often the deciding factor for emergency management authorities. 

"It’s all dependent on the projection for storm surge.  Sometimes hurricanes come in during an astronomical high tide where water levels are already above normal.  And if the hurricane arrival coincides with the high tide cycle, then you get even more water.” 

Flooding can be one of the most dangerous factors when sizing up storm risks, according to Lee. So it’s important to have at least two different ways to evacuate your neighborhood in case the primary route is flooded. 

“Many of the areas along our waterfront are high enough that water may not be an issue right there.  But there may be water between you and inland or water between you and safety.” 

And stay away from both standing water and moving water.  You don’t know what it’s hiding. 

“ You don’t know whether the road that was there is still there.  It could have been washed away.  We could have sink holes… or even some of the covers over the catch basins could have been moved.  You could end up in a dangerous situation that you suddenly find yourself trapped in moving water.” 

And remember, says Lee, 6 inches of water is enough to float a vehicle.

Stay tuned to WHQR for continuing updates on tropical depression Beryl. 

Do you have a related experience you'd like to tell us about?  Find us on Facebook and Twitter to continue the conversation. 

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.